Duhaime's LawGallery - The Law In Pictures


Collapse in the House of Lords

  • Object type: Painting
  • Formal Title: The Death of the Earl of Chatham
  • Creator: John Singleton Copley (1737-1815)
  • Date Created: 1781
  • Origin: London, England
  • Current Location: National Portrait Gallery, London

This exquisite painting by John Copley shows William Pitt as he lay in the arms of his House of Lords colleagues on April 7, 1778.

He had risen to speak and managed to say:

"If the Americans defend independence, they shall find me in their way ...."

... when he collapsed into the arms of his colleagues with his son John just over his right shoulder.

The painting shows the austere atmosphere of the House of Lords, one of England's highest court. One was born into membership; merit mattered not. Even Pitt, a then-retired British Prime Minister changed his name in typical pompous British aristocratic fashion, to The Earl of Chatham such that the painting's formal title refers to "The Earl of Chatham".

Pitt died at home a month after his collapse in the House of Lords. His son William also went on to greatness becoming, in 1783, the youngest-ever British Prime Minister at the tender age of 24.

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